Mike Fietz



Taking steps in advance to keep pets away from the holiday bling and chocolate bark can keep them out of trouble.

Holiday hazards: Keeping pets safe for the season

The holidays must be a weird time for our pets. Their familiar homes are suddenly brimming with strange trinkets and lights. New smells are wafting in from the kitchen. And did I mention there’s a tree in the living room? While most pets adapt quickly to our inexplicable traditions, a few will find ways to […]

It’s tempting to test the dog when a family can’t shake strep throat, but washing your hands proves to be more effective than treating Rover.

Strep search: Don’t blame your sore throat on the dog

It happens at least once a year. Family members taking turns with strep throat, and they bring the dog in to see if he might be the culprit. It’s a completely reasonable concern, although I’m surprised at how often it has been suggested by the family physician or pediatrician. Because the answer is the same […]

What do new restrictions on controlled substances mean for pet owners?

Control issues: New restrictions on prescribing opioids for pets

It’s been hard to escape news of the opioid crisis over the past few years. And it’s just as difficult to ignore the complicity of the nation’s health care system in creating it. Opioid medications—drugs similar to morphine and named for the opium poppy plant that produces them—have an important role to play in patient […]

The idea that pet owners can find a hypoallergenic dog is not backed by science. Image: Getty Images

False promises: The myth of hypoallergenic dogs

Finding a new dog isn’t trivial, and I’m often faced with questions about the process. There are so many variables to consider. Should you adopt a puppy or rescue an adult? What size dog best fits your lifestyle? Some questions have easier answers than others, and many require a degree of generalization that makes me […]

While they are generally a nasty bit of business, excessive hairballs may indicate an underlying problem like anxiety or inflammatory bowel disease. Getty Images

The tangled reality of hairballs

I’ve always been a sound sleeper. Garbage trucks? Thunderstorms? Please. But the low, glugging sound of my cat depositing a hairball three rooms away can wrest me from the deepest slumber in an instant. It’s as if that noise is wired directly to the sleep center of my brain. Most cat owners are somewhat familiar […]

Your pooch may look 
frightfully stressed 
when reverse sneezing 
occurs, but most 
cases are temporary.
file photo

Breathing easier: Getting through reverse sneezing

Anything that looks this terrifying must be an emergency. The poor dog is standing with her legs braced and head thrust forward, and the corners of her mouth are pulled taught in a frightening grimace. Her belly contracts and her ribcage tenses in powerful bursts, and a thundering snort marks each strained breath. She’s distressed, […]

Cloning your beloved canine does not mean you’ll have the same pet. Clones are much like twins with their own unique physical characteristics and personalities. Photo by Bill LeSueur

Scooby deux: The problem with canine cloning

It was a trivial bit of celebrity news, but it evoked conversations I’ve had with clients in the past, and probably meant I’d be having them more often in the future. Barbra Streisand cloned her dog. I have never had someone approach me with the serious intention of cloning a pet, but the idea is […]

Cat owners should avoid keeping lilies in their homes and their gardens because the plants, flowers and even pollen are dangerous to their pets.

As spring blooms, beware of flowers toxic to pets

It’s not yet safe to think that spring has fully sprung, but as the occasional warm days sneak back onto the calendar, it’s hard to resist cracking the windows and cleaning the house in preparation for brighter weather. In my case, that optimistic spirit invariably leads to the purchase of a few houseplants. Ignoring all […]

If a pet’s third eyelid remains exposed, it means something is wrong with that eye.

Thoroughly Vetted: Dogs and cats have an extra eyelid

At a glance, you wouldn’t even know it’s there. Dogs and cats appear to have the same two eyelids that we do. But look closer, especially if you find your pet half asleep, and you might catch a glimpse of their third eyelid. Properly called the nictitans, it’s a pink sheet of tissue that stretches […]

Many dogs suffer from hearing loss when they get older, but attentive owners can help them adjust and keep them safe.

Sound off: Hearing loss in pets

It was odd the first time it happened. My dog, an aging Lhasa Apso, failed to greet me at the door. I found him snoozing in the middle of the living room and tapped him on the head. In a flash, he popped up onto his feet and regained his usual wriggling enthusiasm. Clearly, he […]

A puppy’s need to gnaw can lead to punctures on shoes, furniture and fingers during the first few months. Most dogs have their adult teeth by 16 weeks.

Thoroughly Vetted: Tips for managing a teething puppy

So you’ve got a happy new puppy scampering around the house, and all the joy that goes with him. Your days are suddenly full of impromptu playtimes and snuggly naps, and your fingers are completely lacerated and bleeding—it can’t all be joyous. Why must these delightful little creatures come with a face full of sewing […]

If your aging dog loses his footing, don’t fret, but do get him to a vet. A dog with idiopathic vestibular syndrome usually recovers in a few days.

Thoroughly Vetted: When old dogs get dizzy

My client is in tears as she carries her standard poodle into the lobby. There was no appointment because the problem came out of nowhere. “It’s like he had a stroke,” she suggests as we hurry to an exam room. And that’s certainly how it looks. The poor dog can’t keep his bearings. His head […]

Marijuana toxicity in pets can be resolved fairly easily, so it’s best to come clean if your pet consumes your stash.

Pot bellied: When pets get into marijuana

I’m suspicious right away. His dilated pupils don’t seem focused on anything in particular, and his usually chipper demeanor has been replaced with a vacant haze unmoored from time and space. His head lists to one side before jerking back to center, like a student fighting to stay awake in a lecture. His eyes squint […]

Tapeworms depend on fleas to spread, so being vigilant can help to avoid a host of pests. File photo

Thoroughly Vetted: The ins and outs of the common tapeworm

From hookworm to heartworm, our pets can shelter no shortage of creepy crawly horrors. But few are as renowned as the tapeworm. The mere mention conjures images of people wasting away as the parasite secretly steals their lunch. Indeed, some have even tried harnessing tapeworm in a desperate (and dangerous!) bid to lose weight. There […]

Testing your dog’s DNA may sound intriguing, but there’s little to be gained in terms of medical treatment with these kits.

Using DNA to test your dog’s breed

She’s such a delightful dog, and you were lucky to find her at the shelter that day. But what exactly is she? Her cheese-curl tail evokes a shiba inu. Those droopy ears are all spaniel. And only a schnauzer could have gifted her those magnificent eyebrows. Everyone who meets her spots another breed in the […]

Just like a human cold, the feline variety has few medicinal options for immediate recovery, other than pampering and rest. File photo.

The strange truth about cats catching colds

It has to be an allergy, right? She’s been sneezing for the last few days, and her eyes are watering up. She lives indoors, and probably hasn’t met another cat since her days in the animal shelter. It just doesn’t make sense that she could have caught anything. Such is the weird truth of feline […]

Older dogs need extra attention when a puppy joins the family. Taking time alone and being sensitive to physical activities can buffer the introduction of a high-energy companion.

Generation gap: Introducing puppies to older dogs

My patient, a 12-year-old Labrador, is showing his age. Arthritis has settled into those old bones, and he’s not as active as he used to be. But he’s still a happy dog, living out his golden years in peace with a family that loves him. We’re just finishing up, but his owners have one more […]

Not only must you treat hot spots with ointment and medication, but you must keep your dog from licking and scratching at the skin. Courtesy photo

How to manage hot spots in dogs

It definitely wasn’t there yesterday. She looked completely normal before bedtime, and now there’s an oozing 3″ sore over her left hip and she won’t let anybody near it. Some dog owners are all too familiar with this story, but if it’s your first time seeing a hot spot, it can be alarming. They appear […]

Dogs who are prone to separation anxiety may benefit from an owner’s change of habit.

The woes of your pet’s separation anxiety

I knew I was in trouble within days of adopting him. If I made it all the way to the car before the barking and screaming began, I was lucky. I’d return from grocery shopping to find cracked blinds hanging lopsided above splintered windowsills, and puddles of drool creeping across the floor. My return home […]

The dog flu can leave vets and pet owners guessing as to whether a vaccination is necessary. File photo

The trouble with dog flu

It’s flu season for us humans, and the advice really couldn’t be more simple. Get your flu shot this year and every year. We are social animals who spend most of our day in relatively close physical proximity, and it’s very easy for us to get each other sick. Vaccination may provide an imperfect defense, […]

Witnessing a seizure is an alarming event for pet owners, but in some cases it’s a manageable condition.

How to live with animal epilepsy

The first time you see your pet in the middle of a seizure, it’s like time has stopped. You feel helpless, not knowing how long it will last or what will happen next. Seizures happen when electrical activity in the brain becomes disorganized, slipping free of the coordinated circuits that usually keep things running smoothly. […]

Trimming a dog’s nails can be a painless experience for both owner and animal with the right mindset and approach.

The necessary chore of clipping a pet’s nails

It starts innocently enough with some faint clicking as your dog trots across the kitchen tile. It can wait, you figure. She hates having her nails trimmed and another week won’t hurt. Until she climbs into your lap and eight dull knives dig deep into your thigh. Reluctantly, you admit to yourself that this is […]

Cat owners will argue the incomparable joy of snuggling with a purring pet.

The uncertain science of purring

Sharing my home with both a dog and a cat, I’d be hard-pressed to say which one I prefer to keep as company. They bring such different kinds of joy, and feel like two halves of a lovely whole. But my cat does have one clear advantage that no dog can match. She can purr. […]

Pet owners who cope with a diabetes diagnosis have a challenge that will eventually become part of routine care.

When dogs and cats have diabetes

I hate diagnosing diabetes. It’s a frustrating disease, made worse by the fear that washes across people’s faces when they hear the news. I see them hoping I won’t say anything about insulin injections, then watch them deflate when I finally do. Diabetes is a hormonal disorder that comes in a few varieties, but always results […]

Most ear infections are luckily caught early, and can be managed simply enough with a quick course of drops squirted in the ears, but that’s not always the end of the story. File photo

The many causes of animal ear problems

I’m sure we’d all agree that animal ears are absolutely adorable. Unlike our inert curls of skin that only seem weirder the more you think about them, cats and dogs have delightfully expressive ears. They perk up when we talk to them and flop all over the place, and are generally just fuzzy and fun […]

File photo

Choosing the right toys for your pet

Can’t anything be easy? There are a million toys on the shelf at the pet store, and you feel like you’ve been warned about every single one of them. This one has a squeaker, which you heard is a choking hazard. Your cousin’s dog got an intestinal blockage from rawhide, so that’s out. Pretty much […]

There is no right time to say goodbye to your pet.

The topic of euthanasia is emotionally complex

You’ll know when it’s time. She’ll tell you. It will be sad, but you’ll know it’s the right thing to do. Except it’s not happening that way at all. None of this makes any sense, and every decision seems wrong. She walks so slowly and can hardly be bothered to eat. It must be time, […]